SBD/Issue 51/Sports Media

And We're Live: Danielson Heads List Of Top Football Announcers

A panel of reporters and editors from THE DAILY, SportsBusiness Journal and Sporting News has named CBS’ Gary Danielson the top football broadcaster, according to SBJ’s Rob Knapp, who writes Danielson combines “preparation, football smarts and an almost eerie ability to make observations just as they come into play in the game.” The panel took several different qualities into mind while making the list, and accuracy “was the baseline for professionalism.” Accuracy applies to “both positions in the booth, but the brunt falls on the play-by-play announcer, who communicates to the audience what is going on as it happens.” Announcers have the “least control” over their voice, but it is “no less important, and it’s something that all the other good attributes in the world can’t overcome.” Preparation is important, as those who know the “most about their teams and have the most related subjects and statistics to talk about will succeed even when the drama on the field fades.” The panel “liked analysts who are willing to call players out within the context of the game,” but it was “divided on how outspoken play-by-play announcers should be.” Meanwhile, a broadcaster’s on-air personality played a role, as the job “goes beyond words and delivery and extends to the connection that an announcer makes with a viewer.”

1. Gary Danielson
College analyst CBS
Our No. 1 combines preparation, football smarts and an almost eerie ability to make observations just as they come into play in the game. If you can’t learn something from him, you’re not paying attention.
4. Phil Simms
NFL analyst CBS
His extensive preparation shows in every broadcast. Don’t let the easy manner and the folksy charm fool you: He has no problem calling players out.
6. Troy Aikman
NFL analyst Fox
A low-key booth presence, to be sure, but he’s nearly always right on target and stays away from silly stuff that can drag a broadcast down.
8. Verne Lundquist
College PbP CBS
Avuncular, with a playful style and a distinctive voice. Always sounds like he’s having a great time calling the game.
10. Jim Nantz
NFL PbP CBS
He’s a versatile Mr. Smooth, with a million-dollar delivery and great control of the game. Willing to leave the strong opinions to the analyst.
12. Brad Nessler  
College PbP ABC/ESPN
Strong voice; when he’s doing a game, you know it. Calls a clean game, gets excited when it’s called for and sets up his analyst well.
14. Jon gruden
NFL analyst ESPN
Made a big splash in his first year in the booth. Has fallen off a little after a fast start, but he delivers intensity, good details and a TV-ready personality.
16. Ron Jaworski
NFL analyst ESPN
Does this guy love his job or what? The consensus was that we like him even better in the studio, but he’s entertaining and informative in the booth.
18. Sean McDonough
College PbP ABC/ESPN
Forceful voice and active play-by-play presence; not afraid to put his two cents in. Like a guy whose voice carries the drama? He’s one of your faves.
20. Dan Fouts
NFL analyst CBS
“MNF” alum ran rare crossing pattern from analyst to play-by-play on college games with ABC. Comfortable style, with a good sense of humor.
22. Mike Patrick
College PbP ABC/ESPN
Brings excitement to play-by-play, which works well on campus. “Britney moment” of 2007 shouldn’t overshadow his body of work.
24. Gus Johnson
NFL PbP CBS
Memorable calls make him perfect announcer for YouTube generation. Some questioned whether he should save excitement for biggest of big plays.
2. Cris Collinsworth
NFL analyst NBC
NBC made the right call on “Sunday Night Football.” He brings some attitude to the mike, but he backs it up with astute observations and a little self-deprecating humor.
3. Al Michaels
NFL play by play NBC
Nearly 30 years after “Do you believe in miracles?” he’s the gold standard for football play by play. Always accurate, with insight and some edge thrown in.
5. Kirk Herbstreit
College analyst ABC/ESPN
He’s the matinee idol of the campus crowd, but he calls a good game, too. Thoughtful analysis and a likable presence without overdoing the college rah-rah.
7. Ron franklin
College PbP ABC/ESPN
Southern gentleman with a polished delivery and a comforting voice. He has a great sense of when to have fun and when to get down to business.
9. Joe Buck
NFL PbP Fox
Polished, professional multisport pro. Known as a baseball guy, but brings plenty of football knowledge along with a sly wit to every game he calls.
11. Mike Tirico
NFL PbP ESPN
He has one of the most challenging jobs on the list: traffic cop in the three-man “MNF” booth. Knowledgeable, smooth and a total pro.
13. Brent musburger
College PbP ABC/ESPN
You are looking live at a broadcaster who generates strong feelings. Backers say he’s a big-game announcer. Even his critics wouldn’t disagree.
15. Daryl Johnston
NFL analyst Fox
Former fullback adds non-QB diversity (along with ex-receiver Collinsworth) to analyst spot. Never boring; his opinions hit nearly as hard as he did.
17. Greg Gumbel
NFL PbP CBS
Another who gives a clean, professional call every time. Doesn’t take it upon himself to excite us about the game; that’s fine with us.
19. Todd Blackledge
College analyst ABC/ESPN
High-quality commentary, solid delivery, good sense of context.Could be more colorful occasionally. We never miss “Taste of the Town.”
21. Bob Papa
NFL PbP NFL Network
Do you know this broadcaster? Doesn’t get much play for a guy doing NFL for a national audience, but he always turns in a solid, professional job.
23. Chris Fowler
College PbP ESPN
Known more as “College GameDay” host, he also runs Thursday booth for ESPN, adding edginess to mix with nice guys Craig James and Jesse Palmer.
25. Dick Enberg
NFL PbP CBS
Makes more mistakes than he used to, but he’s an artist with the language and delivers his catchphrase “Oh, my!” with trademark good cheer.
Panelists from SBJ/SBD: Rick Ellington, Betty Gomes, Bill King, Rob Knapp, John Ourand,  Paul  Sanford. From SN: Marcus DiNitto, Jim Gilstrap, Dan Graf, Bob Hille, Vinnie Iyer, Derek Samson

WHAT WE LIKE: SBD’s Rick Ellington writes Danielson “can be summed up in one word: homework,” as no other announcer “comes into a broadcast better prepared and with a better knowledge of the teams playing.” SBJ’s Betty Gomes writes while not everyone “appreciates Collinsworth’s commentary,” she would “much rather have a game analyst who’s willing to call someone out.” Gomes: “Keep the catchphrases and hyperbole. I’ll take Collinsworth’s honesty.” SBD’s Paul Sanford writes Michaels “brings a credibility to the broadcast that is unmatched in today’s world of sports broadcasting. When viewers hear Michaels’ voice, they know they’re about to watch a big game.” SBD/SBJ’s John Ourand writes Nantz “calls football games the way I want to hear them. He has perfected an understated delivery that shows a tremendous amount of respect for the events he covers.”

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE: SBJ’s Gomes writes she does not have an issue with Johnson’s “level of excitement,” but she does “cringe at replays of Johnson’s call of Brandon Stokley’s tipped-ball touchdown” in the Broncos’ Week One win over the Bengals. Gomes: “Johnson’s call was so over the top that it was out of line with what I expect to hear as an NFL fan.” Sporting News’ Marcus DiNitto writes Gruden “shows promise as an analyst, but I was higher on Gruden in the preseason, before his constant use of hyperbole and coach-speak and his fawning over players and coaches began wearing thin.” Meanwhile, SBJ’s Bill King writes Tirico “would be fine on the second or third crew on CBS or Fox, but viewers deserve more on the NFL’s showcase games. They deserve a style. An angle. Maybe even the occasional moment of honest criticism” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/23 issue).

DANIELSON PICK IS ON THE MARK: In Birmingham, David Knox wrote the selection of Danielson as the top announcer “gets no argument here.” Knox: “He makes the SEC broadcast the best of the day, maybe the best of the weekend” (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 11/21). The WASHINGTON EXAMINER’s Jim Williams wrote Danielson is “very entertaining and best of all speaks his mind.” Michaels has been “outstanding for a number of years and he remains the standard by [which] others are measured,” while “no one sells a game better” than Musburger (EXAMINER.com, 11/22). SPORTINGNEWS.com’s Dan Shanoff wrote, “I love the pick of Gary Danielson as the top football announcer – if you hate the SEC, though, he might not be for you” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/20). But in Dallas, Barry Horn wrote the list appears to “have a Southeastern Conference fixation,” as Danielson “is good with X’s and O’s but too often sounds like a SEC homer” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/22).

Writer Says Herbstreit Gets "Better And
Better Every Season"
LET'S TAKE A SECOND LOOK: The BIRMINGHAM NEWS’ Knox wrote he would put Herbstreit above Simms, as he “gets better and better every season.” Musburger is “at his best” during a big game, but he “just hasn’t been his best in a while.” Meanwhile, McDonough is “very good, but I have no idea why his partner, Matt Millen, is not on this list.” Knox: “Lousy GM, great, great analyst” (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 11/21). In Albany, Pete Dougherty wrote his top announcers would “differ extensively from this list.” He puts Michaels in the top slot, followed by Simms, Collinsworth, Nantz and Tirico (TIMESUNION.com, 11/19). SPORTINGNEWS.com’s Dan Levy writes CBS' Dan Dierdorf “does a good job and [I] was a bit surprised when he didn’t make the ... Top 25 football broadcasters list.” Levy: “Sure he says a lot of things that are blatantly obvious. But it’s football. It’s not rocket science” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/23).

ANOTHER OPINION: FANGSBITES.com’s Ken Fang presented his top play-by-play men and analysts in separate lists. He put Michaels atop the PBP list and wrote, “Probably the best all-around play-by-play voice ever. … There’s no one better at setting the scene, giving perspective and breaking down complicated moments than Al.” CBS’ Ian Eagle, who is not on the SBD/SBJ/SN list, ranked sixth for Fang, who wrote, “CBS would do everyone a favor in promoting him to the 3rd or 4th [NFL] announcing team next season.” Simms was the top analyst, with Fang writing, “He’s not afraid to admit he’s wrong. He studies tape every week and can spot things in the booth that other analysts cannot.” NBC’s Pat Haden is the highest-ranking analyst not on the SBD/SBJ/SN list, and Fang wrote, “It’s too bad that Notre Dame has fallen off the nation’s radar because Pat Haden would be considered one of the elite analysts” (FANGSBITES.com, 11/19).

 
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